- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 15, 2006

Prince George’s County educator Eugene Williams Sr. says the best way for parents to teach their children how to read is to set an example by reading at home.

Mr. Williams, an English teacher in the county public school system, has co-written a book on the subject titled: “It’s a Reading Thing … Help Your Child Understand.”

The book was created for parents with children in elementary school to high school, and the most recent edition includes a section of “biographical sketches” written by academically strong students, which Mr. Williams says invites a student audience.

“It’s not about selling books,” said Mr. Williams, of Upper Marlboro, “It’s selling the idea, which is reading books. I want parents to be role models for youngsters. Too often, [children] don’t see their parents reading — not all, but the majority. … I don’t want to blame the parents, but we as parents have not balanced.”

Mr. Williams, a former Howard University professor, wrote the book with his son, Eugene Williams Jr., and Robin M. Bennefield, freelance writers.

He said his choice of topic for the book was in part based upon his experiences in the public school system.

“I was working with students, and I saw some didn’t have the skills,” he said. “Others did, but they were not properly taught or reviewed. Also, youngsters don’t talk like we used to. They speak in monosyllables — mm mm, yeah — and it’s kind of frustrating. Behind all that, there are some unbelievable and very talented kids.”

Mr. Williams teaches such classics as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” that he says are loaded with words students need to perform well on college-entrance exams.

“Students were not being exposed to classics,” he said. “It appalled me that they don’t read these kinds of books.” His book also includes several lists of must-know words from a variety of disciplines.

Mr. Williams grew up in a family of nine in Orange, Va., where he attended elementary school. However, he was not allowed to attend the county’s only high school because of segregation so he attended one serving four counties.

He later earned a bachelor’s degree at St. Paul’s College, a liberal arts school in Lawrenceville, Va., then a master’s degree in English education at the University of Virginia. He earned a doctorate degree at the University of Miami.

Mr. Williams said he raised his son on the same principles found in his book.

He and his wife would read to him and have him read alone, then discuss the stories with him.

They also used audiocassette tapes and vocabulary-word tapes and put books throughout the house, including the kitchen and bathroom, Mr. Williams said with a chuckle.

“He liked television, but we balanced it,” Mr. Williams said. “He watched good television, as long as he read. And we saw the results.”

Mr. Williams’ son graduated from Emory University and is a teacher, in addition to being a writer. He also is studying for a master’s degree at the College of William & Mary. “If it worked for me, it might work for you,” Mr. Williams said. “There’s no guarantee, but let’s at least make the attempt.”

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